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Genesis Recovery Proceeding Well.
When NASA's Genesis smashed into the desert last year, mission controllers and scientists feared the worst for the spacecraft's fragile particle collectors. However, after having examined them carefully, it appears that plenty of useful science will be possible with the collected material. The four solar wind collectors, in an instrument called the concentrator are in excellent condition and should help scientists understand how the solar system formed.
Scientists have closely examined four Genesis spacecraft collectors, vital to the mission's top science objective, and found them in excellent shape, despite the spacecraft's hard landing last year.
Scientists at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston removed the four solar-wind collectors from an instrument called the concentrator. The concentrator targets collected solar-oxygen ions during the Genesis mission. scientists will analyze them to measure solar-oxygen isotopic composition, the highest-priority measurement objective for Genesis. The data may hold clues to increase understanding about how the solar system formed.
"Taking these concentrator targets out of their flight holders and getting our first visual inspection of them is very important," said Karen McNamara, Genesis curation recovery lead. "This step is critical to moving forward with the primary science Genesis was intended to achieve. All indications are the targets are in excellent condition. Now we will have the opportunity to show that quantitatively. The preliminary assessment of these materials is the first step to their allocation and measurement of the composition of the solar wind," she said.
The targets were removed at JSC by a team from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, N.M., where the concentrator was designed and built.
"Finding these concentrator targets in excellent condition after the Genesis crash was a real miracle," said Roger Wiens, principal investigator for the Los Alamos instruments. "It raised our spirits a huge amount the day after the impact. With the removal of the concentrator targets this week, we are getting closer to learning what these targets will tell us about the Sun and our solar system," he added.
The Los Alamos team was assisted by JSC curators and Quality Assurance personnel from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Curators at JSC will examine the targets and prepare a detailed report about their condition, so scientists can properly analyze the collectors. The targets will be imaged in detail and then stored under nitrogen in the Genesis clean room.
Genesis was launched Aug. 8, 2001, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on a mission to collect solar wind particles. Sample collection began Dec. 5, 2001, and was completed April 1, 2004. After an extensive recovery effort, following its Sept. 8, 2004, impact at a Utah landing site, the first scientific samples from Genesis arrived at JSC Oct. 4, 2004.
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